Super League descends on Newcastle for a full round of fixtures at St James' Park - Phil Spink previews the Magic Weekend...
"Leeds re-oppose a team who continue to look a shadow of the side who dominated the league for most of 2017..."
All games are screened on Sky Sports Arena
Saints to dominate again
Widnes Vikings vs St Helens
Saturday May 19
Widnes face a daunting task against league leaders St Helens in the first of Saturday's Super League games.
The Vikings have just one win to their name since March 22, a 90-0 Challenge Cup success over League 1 strugglers Coventry, though played a lot better when pushing Leeds to the limit in the second-half of last week's game.
Saints are now odds-on to win the regular season and you won't find many people backing against them while the awesome Ben Barba remains fit. The Australian continues to wow Super League and ran the show again against Castleford a week ago, scoring his second hat-trick in a month.
Saints have twice nilled sides in Magic Weekend games and there will be punters latching onto that bet - 12/1 with the Sportsbook - but we'll just take them to cover the 22 handicap having won the first fixture at Widnes 28-6.
Game of the weekend tough to call
Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves
Saturday May 19
This looks the tie of the weekend, with the two main challengers to St Helens doing battle and it should deliver. The result in 80 minutes is tricky to call so it could be worth backing a couple of the likely tryscorers.
Warrington have improved massively under Steve Price and were making it ten successive wins when dispatching Toronto Wolfpack 66-10 in the Challenge Cup last week. Josh Charnley, who scored twice, hasn't missed a beat since returning to Super League and will be chomping at the bit to take on the club where he made his name with a stunning amount of tries. Back him to score.
You have to go back to 2008 to find the last time Wigan lost a Magic Weekend fixture and they would be eight wins from 11 had George Williams successfully kicked a late conversion in last year's thrilling 24-24 draw with Warrington. They are in a tremendous position, second in Super League with a game in hand over St Helens having lost just twice, perhaps tellingly, against the league leaders and their opponents here. Oliver Gildart gave them a massive boost when signing a new contract earlier this week and the brilliant young centre should be backed to add to his nine Super League tries.
Leeds to recapture old magic
Castleford Tigers vs Leeds Rhinos
Saturday May 19
Leeds Rhinos can regain their Magic Weekend mojo in Saturday's Grand Final repeat against Castleford Tigers.
The Magic Weekend hasn't been kind to the Rhinos in recent years, last season's 29-18 defeat to the Tigers their fifth in a row, but they re-oppose a team who continue to look a shadow of the side that dominated the league for most of 2017, last week's Challenge Cup defeat against St Helens their fifth loss of the campaign. The absence of Luke Gale and Greg Eden, two of the stars of last season, will continue to hit them hard.
Close defeats have been a common theme for Leeds, not least the 25-24 thriller against Castleford at Elland Road in March, when they were 24-0 down after 23 minutes but fought back to be a kick away in the final seconds from gaining a rare league win over their rivals. Like their opponents they've had an underwhelming campaign, but the return of Ryan Hall and Brett Delaney here will give them a big boost and they can capitalise. Take Hall, a tryscorer in that Elland Road classic, and Leeds to gain the plaudits.
Catalans to gain vital win
Salford Red Devils vs Catalans Dragons
Sunday May 20
Catalans Dragons can lift themselves off the foot of the table with victory over the Salford Red Devils.
It has been a season to forget for Steve McNamara's French side, but things have been looking up for the club in recent weeks, their 56-10 Challenge Cup win over Whitehaven their third in four games, while they gave St Helens a good go on Merseyside at the start of the month. Top try-scorer David Mead returns to the side and he can make his mark again.
Salford have been struggling for points, and following heavy defeats to St Helens and Wigan will have been bitterly disappointed with their performance in last week's Challenge Cup exit at Championship side Leigh. They have a boost with the influential Robert Lui back.
It is the epitome of a scratch game and though they've done this column few favours this season we'll take Catalans to pick up a vital win.
Giants to lord it over Trinity again
Wakefield Trinity vs Huddersfield Giants
Sunday May 20
Improving Huddersfield Giants can make it back-to-back wins over Wakefield Trinity in Sunday's second game.
It's a repeat of last week's Challenge Cup tie which saw Huddersfield progress to the quarter-finals with a 24-14 victory and that was the first time this season they had recorded successive wins. They are still waiting on the arrival of new coach Simon Woolford but he has a real chance of lifting the Giants out of the bottom four while their revival continues. Prop Matty English has been one of several Giants' youngsters catching the eye and scored his first try on Friday. He's likely to make his presence felt again off the bench and at 11/2 is worth a small punt to add to his tally.
After a blistering start to the season with four consecutive wins Wakefield Trinity have become hard to predict. One week they are beating St Helens and the next they are conceding 38 points to Salford. Coach Chris Chester has been quick to drop players after disappointing performances and you can be sure he'll be ringing the changes again after the poor second-half display at the John Smith's Stadium.
Rovers to continue good Magic Weekend record
Hull KR vs Hull FC
Sunday May 20
Magic Weekend finishes with the Hull derby and Rovers look worth backing in receipt of six points.
Hull KR have had a good deal of success in this fixture when played as part of the Magic Weekend, winning five of the eight matches, and will take heart from their spirited performance against Wigan in last week's Challenge Cup defeat. They can stay within the handicap.
Both sides have heavily-depleted squads, so much so in the case of Hull FC that 34-year-old Kirk Yeaman, who has made 374 appearances for the Black and Whites, has come out of retirement two seasons after playing his last game to boost their backline. Hull made it four wins in their last five matches in last week's ugly encounter at Featherstone but their crippling injury list could do real damage to their hopes of a top 4 finish.
Back St Helens -22 - 10/11
Back Josh Charnley to score anytime Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves – 10/11
Back Oliver Gildart to score anytime Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves – 7/4
Back Leeds Rhinos -2 - 10/11
Back Ryan Hall to score first Castleford Tigers vs Leeds Rhinos - 9/1 (first 3 tryscorers 1/4 odds)
Back Catalans Dragons - 10/11
Back David Mead to score anytime Salford Red Devils v Catalans Dragons – 6/5
Back Huddersfield Giants - 7/5
Back Matty English to score anytime Wakefield Trinity v Huddersfield Giants – 11/2
Back Hull KR +6 - 10/11